Have you ever been leading a meeting and found yourself commenting on an idea or suggestion saying, “Yeah, maybe we should do that” but then move past it without any action steps? “Maybe” is a dangerous word in the vocabulary of a leader. It implies uncertainty, lack of direction, unclear priorities and indecision.
There are at least 4 reasons “maybe” is dangerous…
- It damages the execution process. When the leader says “maybe” everyone has to wait until final decision is made before they can take action. If the decision is critical to the organizational goals or project then it creates delays and frustration on behalf of team members.
- It damages team alignment. When the leader says “maybe” some people in the room hear “YES”, while others hear “NO”. Team members then move into action based on their assumptions rather than mission alignment. When you have people going different directions it always creates chaos and conflict.
- It damages individuals confidence. When people share ideas or suggestions publicly they’re being vulnerable. So if the leader says “maybe” to their idea without adequate explanation it can be perceived that the idea was rejected and their input isn’t desired. If the individual feels devalued by the leaders “maybe” they may choose not to offer input the future.
- It damages leadership credibility. Some leaders have “maybe” as a default setting enabling them to procrastinate and avoid uncomfortable ideas and input. Followers will eventually recognize this delay pattern and the leader will lose the respect of his team. The leader will be perceived as one who is unable to get things done.
So maybe, just maybe saying “maybe” isn’t such a good idea.